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  #21  
Old 08.09.2011, 15:05
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Re: daughter only - predominantly - speaking swiss german

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Im not complaining. She is healthy, she loves the creche (which is the other major source of swiss-german), she will go to local school so its great that she is competent in the lingo and I dont have to worry about her settling in and making friends (other than the usual worries) - I suppose Im just lonely for the chatter that could be in english.
Its making me homesick !!!
I can totally understand the feeling of being homesick when your kids don't speak your language.
I brought this subject up a few months ago about my kids only speaking Swiss German. It stressed me out so much that I wasn't even enjoying them anymore. It made it worse for me to insist on them speaking English, or ignoring them. So I decided to stop stressing about it. Now I just continue in English to them and sometimes they respond in English (usually when they've had it at school that day), but mostly it's Swiss German.

After spending a couple weeks in Canada this summer, I realized how well my kids can actually speak- besides having a little Swiss accent, they did really well and were proud of themselves. Now I am convinced that even though Swiss is their first language, they feel comfortable in English and it's all there in their heads.

On the positive side, your daughter speaking Swiss might help you to learn it and feel more accepted and integrated.
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  #22  
Old 08.09.2011, 17:07
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Re: daughter only - predominantly - speaking swiss german

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Thought Id throw this out there and maybe parents who are 5 to 10 years ahead of us (ie with older children) could give their been-there-done-that input.
Well our family would fall into that catagory. I'm English and my wife is Swiss. I didn't manage to bring up our kids bilingual and I definitly did some things wrong.
  • accept that you are in a SG world and your kids will soak this up. If they refuse to talk to you in English then they are not being deliberatly mean
  • Don't give up and keep plugging away with the English even though this can be quite wearing
  • Allocate certain times where you only speak English together (like meal times)
  • Maybe pretend you don't speak SG. OK I know they won't believe you.
  • Don't assume like I did that the kids will automatically speak English. You maybe have to teach it like in a class
  • Let the kids mix with other English speakers
My kids are proud of their English connections and now give me the blame that they are not fluent in English. Pity they weren't a bit keener when they were smaller
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Old 08.09.2011, 18:46
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Re: daughter only - predominantly - speaking swiss german

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Im also worried that it will become a tool when she is a teenager to isolate herself, ie my mum doesnt understand me - literally!!!
Ah, but that's ten years down the road... you will be fluent in Swiss German by then so her strategy won't work
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Old 08.09.2011, 19:19
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Re: daughter only - predominantly - speaking swiss german

I have 2 kid's 7 (boy) & 11 (girl) in Neuchâtel who are bilingual.
Our eleven year old is reading in English and I have to say this was the key to her fluency. She enjoys reading and is happy to read in English. She now thinks English is cool as all the pop songs are in English and she understands them and can tell her friends what they mean!

The boy is a bit lazy but he has a very good basis and we can really see this when we are in Ireland.

They both went to an English speaking crèche but early on there was a bit of a resistance at about 3 to English like it was hard work. Stop messing Dad and speak French type attitude. However my wife (French) and I insisted and we spoke 50/50 at home. It was when we were abroad that we noticed that they had really assimilated much more than we imagined.
my daughter just loves imitating a Dublin accent

My advice persevere with the English without getting into major conflicts and I bet when she gets older you will find she is just fine.

By the way I understand you difficulty being faced with a Swiss German speaking daughter. I think I would find this difficult too. My wife keeps correcting our daughter for her Swiss French expressions

Good luck

John
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Old 08.09.2011, 20:06
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Re: daughter only - predominantly - speaking swiss german

Well, we don't have quite the mix that some of you do - we have English at home and Swiss German/German at school/daycare. Nevertheless there was a time when I started to get concerned about the kids English and mixing things up. So the younger one started at an English pre-school for 1 morning a week (he's now doing 2) and the older one started doing and English reading / writing class on Wednesday afternoons. In the beginning the older one was reluctant to go "why do I need to do this, my friends don't?" kind of thing because in the beginning he actually found it quite hard. But after a few weeks he soon realised that he now had a whole other set of friends, who spoke English, and that he had a lot in common with them as they all also have foreign parents who watch English TV or do other stuff in other languages.

I really feel the English "school" has balanced out the German Kindergarten (now primary school) / daycare thing. Somehow being friends with kids who speak English is a lot more fun that just doing it to speak to your fuddy duddy old parents!

So anyway, I would look for an English club, class or other activity where she will meet some English speaking kids.
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Old 08.09.2011, 23:05
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Re: daughter only - predominantly - speaking swiss german

I have a 10 year old son (I'm English hubby Swiss) he is in the local school. His English and German are the same level - he doesn't mix languages and only ever speaks to me in SG if his friends are around so to include them. (or if he really wants to try and wind me up!)

I'm a language teacher and linguist and so didn't really leave this to chance From 0-2 I didn't work at all (apart from 1 evening a week) and he heard me all day and everyday. I mixed with other English speaking mums so he could "socialise" in English. We visited family in the UK 4/5 times a year and he built an very powerful bond with his family there (they would come over here 2/3 times too) I think having a strong connection and identity with the "other" country is also really important. My son is Swiss while in Switzerland but the moment we arrive in Manchester he is English (that's what he says)

From 2-4 (pre kindergarten) I worked one morning a week and he went into Swiss day care from 9-14.00 once a week and went to English "playgroup" where I left him once a week for a morning.

Kindergarten age: Until this time his English was better than his SG - but then the SG really kicked in. I balanced this by sending him to English school every Wednesday afternoon (The open door in Basel) where he learned to read, write in English. Now in year 4 primary - he still goes to the Wednesday afternoon English school.

I refuse point blank to communicate with him if he ever speaks SG with me. The only time I budge on that is if his friends are around (to be inclusive)

I still read to him everynight - it's our time together....I'll read around 20 mins and then leave him to continue reading for another 20 (we're on our 4th Harry Potter book)

Strict rule - only English TV before 17.00.

It's worked really well until now. I'm pretty confident if we moved to the UK tomorrow he'd be able to hold his own as a native speaker 10 year old at school.

But it does take some work - and being pretty consistent. I don't really agree that kids will "somehow become bilingual" in a situation where the languages are mixed up and they speak SG and are answered to in English. What tends to happen in such situations is they'll grow up with an excellent understanding of English - but their range of vocabulary and perhaps even accent will be on the level of a very good non-native speaker.

I don't know how much you work - but perhaps if your daughter is spending more than 2 full days a week in Tagi then it might be worth considering limiting it to 2 days and then looking into English speaking childcare for the other days?
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Old 08.09.2011, 23:24
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Re: daughter only - predominantly - speaking swiss german

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Recently after reading to her (in english) she was asking me something about the story in swiss-german and I said "darling you should speak to mammy in english" (or something to that effect) and she said "iiiiii kaaaaaaaa nür dütsch rede weiiiiiissssss". It was actually very funny but made me feel very sad. I didnt say anything just went on and answered her question. I suppose Im worried about communication going forward. Im already not understanding her as her german has passed mine. I am doing lessons but they are high german and she is speaking swiss german. Im also worried about the teenage years which are notorious for poor communication even when you speak the same language.
Don't worry it will all turn out fine in the end!!! I've got two Swiss/Irish kids and they are now more or less at the point where they don't care what language they use, it's more a question of which language you understand!

With my son, I was very careful so that he never knew that I actually understood every word he said in dialect, until he was about 7 years old. So right from the start he always spoke English to me.

When my daughter came along, I was lazy and she quickly realized that I understood her, so she never bothered to speak English with me until she was about 8 years old. For her the motivation was trips to Ireland, she quickly realized that English was useful to know, since she was often left out of things with her Irish cousins, where as her brother was in the middle of everything. So she really started to make the effort and within about 6 months she was up to her brother.

Now when I compare them to their Irish cousins, there really is no difference as to their command of the English language. But I have to say they are both avid readers, they usually go through about 5 or 6 books per week of which two or even three will be in English. And I think that makes a big difference!

A couple of things I'd recommend:
  • Read bed time stories in English to her
  • Watch lots of English DVDs - My kids loved Post Man Pat and Bob the Builder
  • Lots of visits to her English speaking cousins and of course the grand parents

One other thing I'd suggest, stop translating what she says to you in German into English, because in doing so you are showing her that you understand, so there is no reason to make the effort to speak to you in English.

Good luck,

Jim.
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